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For nearly a decade, every SEC football season has started with a similar feeling.
Alabama is going to win the SEC West. There will be a team from the SEC East capable of contending with the Crimson Tide in the SEC Championship Game but that team – which will likely be Georgia once again – probably won’t get it done.
That’s just the most likely scenario. It doesn’t have to play out that way.
There are games between now and December that could change the course of the conference’s season. Here are some of those games, plus non-conference games that might have College Football Playoff implications.
10. Alabama at Texas AM, Oct. 12
Texas AM is 0-for-4 when trying to beat Alabama in College Station. The Aggies have never been able to pull it off at home, even when Johnny Manziel was taking snaps at Kyle Field.
AM believes it finally has a coach who can guide the team to monumental victories. Jimbo Fisher knows how to win big games. He’s one of two head coaches in the conference who has won a national championship. If starting quarterback Kellen Mond makes a big leap as a junior, AM could hang with the Crimson Tide at home.
9. Texas AM at Clemson, Sept. 7
College football fans might get a feel for whether the Aggies’ game against Alabama will be tightly contested based on Week 2 of the season. That’s when Texas AM has to take on the defending national champion.
Clemson showed how formidable of a program it has become when the Tigers trounced Alabama in the title game. The Tigers’ average margin of victory during its perfect 15-0 season was 31.1 points. Head coach Dabo Swinney’s team had its closest escape against none other than Fisher’s Fightin’ Aggies in a 28-26 thriller in Week 2. It’ll be interesting to see if Fisher’s team can keep it close on the road.
8. LSU at Mississippi State, Oct. 19
Speaking of teams trying to find their place in the conference’s landscape, LSU and Mississippi State are two of them. Is LSU ready to truly compete with Alabama in the West? If so, a win over Mississippi State at Davis Wade Stadium would be a must.
But if the Bulldogs are able to emerge victorious, then could head coach Joe Moorhead’s team make a serious jump and flirt with being the SEC’s sleeper? MSU’s early schedule is somewhat generous, and it gets to face SEC West frontrunner Alabama at home on Nov. 16, too. A win over LSU would go a long way.
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7. Auburn vs. Oregon (Dallas), Aug. 31
Who doesn’t like games between Power 5 opponents in the first weekend of the college football season?
Auburn had the task of playing eventual Pac 12 Champion Washington in Week 1 last year. This season, the Tigers play another Pac 12 stalwart to open up the season.
6. Florida vs. Miami (Orlando), Aug. 31
Florida and Miami are set to play against each other for the first time since 2013. The Hurricanes have won seven of the last eight meetings in the series, but this one feels like the Gators have an advantage given the way they played in 2018 compared to how the Canes fared.
5. Alabama at Auburn, Nov. 30
How fitting that the first Iron Bowl since the passing of Auburn broadcasting legend Rod Bramblett will be played at the site of Bramblett’s best call. It will undoubtedly be an emotional day at Jordan-Hare Stadium because of that, but every Iron Bowl is filled with energy and emotion. This one will be no different.
Gus Malzahn’s job security as Auburn’s head coach could be under the microscope once this game rolls around, and Alabama will inevitably be playing to reach the SEC Championship Game. As always, there will be a lot to play for in Alabama two days after Thanksgiving.
4. LSU at Alabama, Nov. 9
Last year’s meeting between LSU and Alabama was a top-five matchup. The No. 1 Crimson Tide versus the No. 4 Tigers. The game that was supposed to be the best of the year was an absolute dud. Bama rolled, 29-0.
There’s no way LSU falls that flat again, right? Right?!
Well, there is a way. Alabama has won the last eight games in the series. There is a chance this could be another top-five game with national implications galore, and LSU would love to end its losing streak. If that happens, it will likely be looked back on as the most meaningful game of the SEC season.
3. Georgia vs. Florida, Nov. 2
College football in the South is more fun when this annual game in Jacksonville has a lot to do with which team will represent the SEC East in the conference title game. Last year, that was the case. Whichever team won was in the driver’s seat to win the division.
Georgia blew out Dan Mullen’s Florida Gators, 36-17, continuing the trend of not having a one-possession game in this series since 2013. This year seems like the time to change that. Kirby Smart’s Bulldogs are national title contenders again, and Mullen’s Gators are trying to inch up to the same level.
2. Notre Dame at Georgia, Sept. 21
This is a game between a team that made the College Football Playoff last year and a team that was a botched fake punt attempt away from possibly doing the same. Notre Dame was outclassed by Clemson in the CFP, but Alabama was too. The Irish don’t plan on taking any steps backward, and obviously Georgia doesn’t either.
This isn’t a game between two SEC teams, but it is one that could impact whether a team other than Alabama has a chance to make it to the CFP.
1. LSU at Texas, Sept. 7
The Longhorns made Georgia look ill-prepared and lackluster in the Sugar Bowl. While LSU isn’t a team fans of opposing SEC schools routinely root for, SEC supporters certainly don’t want to see Texas — a program that hasn’t contended for a Big 12 title, let alone a national title, for the better part of the last decade — beat one of the SEC’s best teams twice in a row.
Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium will be rocking in Week 2, and college football fans from coast to coast will be tuned in to see if Texas is truly back or if LSU is a true challenger to Alabama in the SEC West in 2019. Like Notre Dame at Georgia, this game might have CFP implications.
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